South Africa Cheetahs

South Africa cheetahs are the same species found throughout the continent and in the Middle East. However, there have been more mutations in coloring and spot patterns found in southern Africa, especially in Zimbabwe, Zambia, and the Republic of South Africa. This is also where most animals of the sub-species called king cheetahs have been found. The king cheetah is slightly larger than the more common cheetah and has longer fur. However, like all cheetahs, they have the telltale "wasp" waist, deep chest, long legs, and signature black teardrop under each eye. They are fast, able to reach 60 miles per hour in only three seconds and able to maintain a speed of up to 75 miles per hour for a distance of about 1,600 feet. And, like all cheetahs, they do not have retractable claws.

You will find cheetahs in any of the national parks, game reserves, and private game ranches that have areas of open plains and savannas required for cheetahs' hunting. The general rule in most game parks, whether it's the Serengeti in Tanzania or Kruger National Park in South Africa, is to let nature take its course. There are even regulations against interfering by picking up orphaned animals. Cheetahs, wild dogs, and other highly endangered species are the exception. And game wardens and rangers will take orphans to sanctuaries and injured animals to veterinarians.

Cheetahs everywhere are highly endangered and have disappeared from large areas where they once thrived. This is due in large part to high cub mortality caused by predation by African lions, hyenas, and other predators, as well as to habitat encroachment by humans. There are some theories that genetic inbreeding is also to blame, although some experts disagree since the species lost its genetic diversity thousands of years ago, but has only been declining for about the last century.

South Africa cheetahs are part of one of the most distinguished cheetah conservation programs in the world. The De Wildt Cheetah Sanctuary was founded by Ann van Dyk on her parents' chicken farm in 1971. It is located about an hour's drive north of Johannesburg. The sanctuary has been in the forefront of breeding cheetahs and reintroducing them to the wild (especially in areas where they have disappeared) ever since. In the latter part of the 20th century, the sanctuary also began work to study and protect the highly endangered African wild dog. There is a lovely rustic lodge on the property with eight rooms and which serves as a peaceful bed and breakfast inn.

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